Although the conversation of White trash culture may feel somewhat surface level or even amusing to some, these readings were almost profound to me, as someone who grew up in a small town in the south. White trash culture to me was the weird racist neighbor no one talked about, the kid in class who rarely showered and bore a confederate flag on his behemoth of a truck, or the random Honey Boo Boo sighting we all had at least once in the local Kroger. Studying scholarly literature on the culture of white trash in terms of its roots and its relationship with race and class legitimized this ever-present culture I grew up around, and has caused me to consider the white trash relationship with racism and African Americans, which is something I would typically ignore due to embarrassment of my upbringing.
A KKK flag still flies high in my neighborhood to this day. Although it deeply offends and outrages most of us to the core, there are still laws that protect the southernerswho choose to support such deep hatred of another race. This is where Sweeney’s writings on White culture and the origins of white trash confused me in the beginning. “Spills tackiness out into the open”, and “white trash grows out of undesirable places” fits the exact script of the white trash folk I grew up around. But this contradictory relationship with race that these white trash people had was a completely new side of the coin I had never considered, and I’m sure my white trash neighbor who flies the KKK flag had certainly never considered it either. Sweeney describes white trash as being a culture of marginalized minorities, and most importantly, not quite white. I am imagining the faces of my confederate flag loving, black hating, white trash neighbor’s faces reading this article and I cannot help but laugh. Although they would be outraged, I believe this is correct. Even though a lot of these people’s time is spent hating blacks, they spend an equal amount of time appropriating black culture. Elvis helped bridge the gap in terms of similarities in these two cultures that I previously would have never considered to be alike in any way.
Elvis is the pillar of tacky, and the definition of white trash, but black and white Americans alike think of him as the King. Sweeney compared his mama’s boy and soft-spoken ways to those of a typical southern African American, and to me these characterizations also apply to the kind of white trash I grew up around. These kids prided themselves on manners and hard physical labor both of which Sweeney describes as being forever linked with Black culture. A lot of the traits of black culture and white trash culture connect, and although it was not the point of this article, I feel a little bit less bitter about growing up in the South by knowing these racist southerners I came to know so well are deeply linked with the culture they actively dislike. I have certainly gained a new appreciation for Elvis and the cultural confusion he represents.